Not Just for Horses: Hay Could Soak Up Gulf Oil

Daryl Carpenter demonstrates how ordinary hay can be used to remove oil from water.
Daryl Carpenter demonstrates how ordinary hay can be used to remove oil from water.

You can tell by talking with him that Darryl Carpenter is a regular guy. A regular guy with a simply genius idea for cleaning up the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Carpenter works for a construction company called CW Roberts Contracting in Tallahassee, Fla. It's been in business for 35 years.

The company does road construction, paving, that sort of thing. And they use hay to control soil erosion along roads and highways.


One day, while Carpenter was driving his truck, it occurred to him that hay can soak up oil. He got together with his erosion expert pal, Otis Goodson, and they tested it. And they discovered it works.

When CNBC called Carpenter, asking if would demonstrate the hay idea, Jan answered the phone. She couldn't help but lament about the spill, it's path toward Florida, and how the mayor of Destin, in the Florida panhandle, wasn't doing anything to prepare.

Her family has property in Destin. Darryl has a solution. And she couldn't understand why the city of Destin wasn't looking for ideas.

When Carpenter and Goodson realized hay could soak up oil and leave clean water behind, they got themselves an audience with the sheriff in Walton County. The sheriff called in the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard called in BP.

The demonstration went great. It even ended up on YouTube. But BP hasn't shown any interest.

But CW Roberts Contracting did make a deal with Walton County to clean up the beaches when the oil comes. And when the slick is hanging around off shore, they'll use hay to mop it up.

Carpenter is just one of many small business operators and entrepreneurs who are offering clean up solutions to BP. Another is Ed Corpora, of American Enterprise Products Corporation, whose company sells a peat moss product that contains microbes, which can literally eat oil from the water's surface. (Watch video of Corpora's demonstration here.)

And, First Line Technology, which markets a product similar to the Sham Wow (of TV informercial fame) that soaks up oil using three layers of super absorbant material. (Watch video of how it works here).

BP's website (top right under GOM Response-Contacts) asks the public "Do you have ideas to help us?" Despite that solicitation, none of the individuals or companies mentioned in this story have heard from BP, although all have inquired and expressed their interest in helping.

Monday on "Power Lunch" at 1pm ET, we'll report on another entrepreneurial solution for cleaning up leaking oil. It's a device that processes large volumes of liquid, as much as 5,000 gallons a minute, and separates oil from water. If placed aboard ships, it could help remove some of the crude spilling into the gulf.